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[Sansad TV] Perspective: Innovation in Education

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Context

  • The buzzword across the globe for the 21st century is Innovation which is considered to be the primary driver of progress.
  • Incentivising innovation and intellectual property creation is important for India’s future growth prospects.
  • Making all these considerations, the Ministry of Education’s innovation cell has recently released the third edition of Atal Ranking of Institutions on Innovation Achievements (ARIIA) 2021.

What is Atal Ranking of Institutions on Innovation Achievements (ARIIA)?

  • ARIIA ranking classifies participating institutions into two major categories; technical and non-technical.
  • It is developed by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and the Ministry’s Innovation Cell.
  • It aims to systematically rank all major higher educational institutions and universities in India.

Highlights of ARIIA 2021

  • In the technical ranking IIT Madras has been recognised as the Most Innovative Educational Institute in India.
  • This is the third time that IIT Madras has secured the first rank. IIT Bombay and IIT Delhi were placed at the second and third ranks respectively.
  • Out of total of 3551 HEIs registered, 1438 institutions including all IITs, NITs, IISc, etc. participated in this exercise.

Why discuss innovation?

  • Academic nature: For the longest of time in India, innovation was either tucked away in the R&D centres of government enterprises, academia and the MNEs.
  • Situational constraints: Quiet often it was around unorganised markets in the form of the cheap Jugaad.
  • Rise of Unicorns: With over 35 Unicorns (and counting), India has become the third-largest hub of Unicorns globally, something that is not even remotely replicable by others in similar class of economies.
  • Pitch for Indigenization: Introduced at the beginning of the 2020s, the ‘Vocal for Local’ credo is symbolic of a nation that is beginning to believe in its own self-worth.
  • Unleashed potential: From ISRO’s groundbreaking low-budget streaks to India being a frontrunner in the Covid vaccine development, India’s ability to innovate is beginning to make a lasting impact on the world.
  • Global acknowledgement: The Global Innovation Index indicates India has been consistently outperforming other economies. India’s ranking has gone up from 81 (2015) to 48 (2020).

For a better India

  • The once stereotypical attitude of ‘chalta hai’ is giving way to the newfound zeal around ‘how to make things work better.
  • This is the question that Indian entrepreneurs are applying to the products and services landscape of new India.

Why does India need innovation?

  • Heterogeneity of users: With the hard metrics of innovation ecosystem in place, what really acts as the magic ingredient is the vast and heterogenous user segments in India that are hungry for novel solutions.
  • Capable institutions: This combination of strong capabilities and categories ripe for disruption makes India a fertile ground for new innovations.
  • Youth: India is also a young country. While population growth is under control, it is still growing at two per cent per year in population.
  • Being later than never: Technology is clearly the biggest area of transformation in India. India has some advantages in this area from being a ‘late mover’, which has enabled it to leapfrog the competition in many cases.

Hurdles to Innovation in HEIs

  • Low gross enrolment ratio is a major challenge in India towards the introduction of innovation in education
  • Inadequate quality of education and infrastructure that is requisite to boost innovation
  • Lack of funds for state-run Universities
  • Faculty crunch and severe shortage of teaching staff and poor facilities
  • Stagnant academic syllabus in institutions other than IITs/NITs
  • Decline in research standards due to lack of infrastructure
  • Limited institutional support- While India has the scientific talent, we do not have the deep pockets and the enabling ecosystem that drives most of the innovation in the West.

Structural lacunae

  • Lack of incubation centres: In terms of world-class manufacturing, India still lags behind.
  • Limited policy successes: Even though the government has an initiative in place to encourage companies under Make In India/ Vocal for Local, it hasn’t had any major victories in terms of attracting big players.
  • Weaker IPR regime: The lack of funding support in the country forces innovators in India to park their IP rights outside the country.

Significance of Innovation in Higher Education

  • Competition: The ranking system of ARIIA facilitates a healthy competitive environment among institutions to expand the purview of innovation. 
  • Formative years of students: This ecosystem would inspire young students to put forth their ideas in their formative years. 
  • Quality enhancement: ARIIA will exert a large emphasis on the quality of innovation and will make an attempt to examine the influence of the innovations nationally and internationally. 
  • Social applications: The innovation in education has a far-reaching impact on human development for productivity, research and improved value chain interaction across different spheres of the economy.

Way forward

  • In today’s knowledge-driven economy, innovation is the primary driver of progress. And, a large reservoir of entrepreneurial energy in India waiting to be tapped lies in these HEIs.
  • For innovation to flourish, ideas must be funded and taken to market. The HEIs are the right place to invest in for innovations.
  • It is by investing in breakthrough ideas and embracing entrepreneurship as an economic model of growth that India will be able to unleash the power of innovation to ensure a better life for its billion-plus citizens.

Conclusion

  • We must build the credibility of Indian innovation within our borders and convince people that the quality of research done in India is at par with the best in the world.
  • This can be done by promoting more innovations in HEIs.
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